Want to know a secret? I don’t mind washing the dishes. The task represents a bit of down time, often later in the evening after the hectic activity of the day has long subsided. It’s just me and this pedestrian task. Most evenings I’ve inevitably put it off for too long, grown a bit too tired, and need to coax myself into filling the sink. But once the soapy mounds build, I’m invested, and forming a strategy—wooden spoons first, then flatware followed by all things ceramic.
Since I’m telling secrets, here’s another: I didn’t have to do the dishes as a kid. My dad did them. He now spends a lot of time teasing my sister and me about it, but I often wonder if he liked having the alone time to clear his thoughts and accomplish a chore, as I do now. But, for me—and for other potters, I suspect—there are rewards to doing the dishes, albeit nerdy ones. With the washing, although I’m not the maker, I’m involved in the process these pots were intended for. As I work through the sudsy pile, I get a hands-on tutorial for each pot.
With each pass of the sponge, the step-by-step of the pot’s process is revealed. Here’s where I can get lost in the chore, and it becomes a pleasant act of discovery. I imagine this is because I’m intimately familiar with how wet clay works. The pots in my sink have the same nuances I’m familiar with in my own practice: subtle throwing rings, fingertip impressions, rough clay meeting smooth glaze. And, although I relish what I do know, I’m equally caught up with what I don’t. What tool was used to trim this foot ring? What Mason stain was used to get that green? How is mishima done again? The duration of this task could be so much shorter, but what fun would that be?
Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to do the dishes to learn more about making pots. In this issue we’ve included some great techniques to help you avoid pruney finger tips: Josie Jurczenia teaches us how to combine water etching with mishima, Sarah Pike shows how to use homemade bisque rolling pins to texture slabs, David M. Self takes the torture out of surface decoration by wrapping pots with slip, Jo Taylor combines thrown and handbuilt clay pieces to make architecturally-inspired sculpture, and John W. Conrad bedazzles pots with glitter.
Back to the kitchen, if not the sink, Sumi von Dassow returns with an innovative ceramic picnic/potluck cooler while Caleb Zouhary dirties the dishes with a mouth-watering recipe for lobster pot pie (which our assistant editor, Forrest Gard, has already made and now highly recommends), and step-by-step instructions for personal crocks.
As for drying the dishes, my class is done for the night and the rest can wait until morning.